Clary goes to Pandemonium, a dance club, where she meets three teens who are apparently invisible to everyone else. The three kill a boy they claim is a demon.
The next day, she has a fight with her mother and leaves the house. She returns to find their apartment a shambles. Her mother is gone. In her place is a massive, centipede-like demon that says it was sent by Valentine.
Clary is poisoned but escapes with the help of one of the teenage Shadowhunters she met the night before. Together they set out to find her mother and Valentine.
Why I picked it up: Three friends recommended it to me.
Why I finished it: From the beginning of the story, Valentine is behind every demonic attack on Clary and those she is close to. I wanted to meet the face behind the name.
I'd give it to: Marissa, who would enjoy the quick, sarcastic wit that dominates the conversations between characters, and Jack, who loves books where the action never stops.
Danny Dragonbreath is the only dragon at a school full of reptiles and amphibians, and he still can’t breathe fire, despite practicing. He makes up the subjects of his school essays, tricks the school bully into taking his offensive lunch, and dreams of being a pirate with his best friend Wendell. When he has to redo his ocean report, he takes Wendell to visit his cousin Edward, a sea serpent who takes them on a danger-filled underwater tour.
Why I picked it up: It looked good, and I have’t seen a story in this mixed comic /chapter book format since Schade and Buller’s Fog Mound series, which I enjoyed tremendously.
Why I finished it: Before school, Danny’s dad gives him inspirational pep talks to help him breathe fire. His mother (not a morning dragon) “...looked up from her coffee, focused her eyes with some difficulty, and hissed like a cobra.”
I'd give it to: My 7-year-old’s friends, their parents, and her school library.
In Incarceron, everyone is a prisoner. It is a sealed and sentient environment that recycles everything, including the dead. Ubiquitous “red eye” cameras see all. Incarceron is supposed to have everything needed for the rehabilitation and care of its inhabitants.
Finn has, as far as he can remember, always lived in Incarceron. He's barely scraping by as a member of a Scum Gang, fighting each day for survival in a building that is working against him. He’s not sure whether to believe rumors about the existence of an outside. But after he gets hold of a key during a raid, he’s able to use it to communicate with Claudia, the Warden’s Daughter, a pawn used by her father to acquire power.
Why I picked it up: In Boston at an American Library Association event I was discussing cover designs with a few friends, and someone praised this book.
Why I finished it: The level of detail that went into building this world makes the story fresh. There are metal trees, half-recycled cyborg/humans, a wise race called the Sapienti, a messianic character who might have been the only man ever to get out of Incarceron, and more.
I'd give it to: Fans of way-out world creation and Orson Scott Card readers looking for a new author or series to obsess over.
A family melodrama. A book within a book.
Why I picked it up: John at Zanadu Comics told me he had a new book I might like and handed it to me.
Why I finished it: This is part of Viz’s new Ikki line of manga for adults, and the art is different from other Japanese comics I’ve seen. The characters are cartoony and emotionally expressive, which gives this book a very indy, mini-comic feel. The story bounces around in time and uses unusual transitions in a way that was both jarring and pleasing to follow. (Read Chapter 1 of not simple. )
The fun starts on the cover as Robert babbles about the science experiment he’s done by dropping a concrete block and a tomato out the attic window. The car in the driveway was just a BIT close and Robert pushed a BIT too hard and his poem ends with the title of the book, in the shape of a car with a dented roof and the words ‘concrete poems’ in the shape of a concrete block sticking out of the car’s dented roof. Robert has a wry wit and a wicked streak, especially where his sister is involved. The fun continues inside the book with a circular poem, “My Stupid Day,” which anyone can relate to.
Why I picked it up: Once I’d read the cover, I was hooked.
Why I finished it: Every page of this book made me giggle. The ups and downs of a pre-teen boy’s life are expressed in eye-catching and hilarious poetry. Just thinking about the poems still makes me smile or laugh and causes strangers in stores and coffee shops to inch away slowly.
I'd give it to: Oh, I’d give this to Cody. He was in my daughter’s 5th grade class when this book came out. He’s not a reader, but after read the opening poem to them, followed by “The Autobiography of Murray the Fart,” Cody fought with his friends to be the next kid to READ A POEM OUT LOUD! (Still one of the best moments of my life.)
John Busby, a Massachusetts police officer, was unwilling to overlook the crimes committed in his town that were implicitly sanctioned by the local police. He confronted a mafia-connected garbage man. The hell that followed for both him and his family is an emotional roller coaster that beggars the imagination. After surviving an ambush, he and his family required round the clock protection and finally had to enter witness protection and move out-of-state. Cylin, his young daughter, tells her story with John, showing the emotional toll of never feeling safe. John wanted revenge, but Cylin just wanted her father back and to attend a normal school.
Why I picked it up: I was looking for a true-crime memoir.
Why I finished it: I have an idea about how the criminal justice system operates. This does not fit. I gnashed my teeth in impotent rage. No family doing the right thing should ever have to go through this.
I'd give it to: Those that have romanticized the Mafia by watching The Sopranos. Shakespeare fans because everyone is motivated by base emotions like revenge and greed. And my wife who would have a difficult time believing that the justice system could be this corrupt.